Picking the Best Sources for Your Dissertation

Literature Review

When it comes to selecting beneficial research articles for your dissertation, wading through all of those sources can seem like a daunting task. There’s no need to worry, though, as most schools have a specific set of guidelines for you to use when pulling resources for your study. The key things to remember in all of this are the terms current and peer-reviewed.

Current sources are usually defined as any peer-reviewed source that has been published within 5 years of your intended graduation date. If you plan on graduating in 2018, this means your sources must have been published between 2014 and 2018. While most think that the date should be 2013-2018, most schools count the year of graduation as a viable publishing year, which means each year is counted separately instead of sequentially. There is some leeway to this rule, however, in the form of the 85/15 rule that is constant across all colleges. The 85/15 rule is that 85% of your sources must be current, peer-reviewed sources; 15% of sources can be older than what the guidelines require, but they must be seminal resources (resources that cannot/have not been updated). The seminal works rule generally allows for groundbreaking studies and theories.

Peer-reviewed sources consist of sources that have gone through rigorous editing and review by a panel of experts and are nearly always found in the form of journal articles. Be aware that the peer-review designation does not apply to books, webpages, dissertations (both published and unpublished), articles from newspapers and magazines, or blog posts. There are some colleges that allow for less than 10% of overall sources to consist of dissertations, books, and government reports, but it is best to stick with journal articles.

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